Meet Aminatta Forna, PhD

Aminatta Forna
Headshot of Aminatta Forna

Aminatta Forna, PhD, is an award-winning transnational writer; professor of subjects that include African Literature, Transnational Literature, and Creative Writing; and Director of the Lannan Center.

She grew up in a medical household, daughter of a Sierra Leonean doctor and a British mother. She was born in Scotland, and raised largely in Sierra Leone and Britain, also spending periods of her life in Iran, Thailand and Zambia, as a result of her stepfather’s work as a diplomat. Most recently, she has also lived in the United States for a sum of over 8 years, first as a fellow at the University of California, Berkeley in the late 1990s, then teaching at Williams College in 2011 and 2013, and currently at Georgetown University. 

Her experience of movement and contact with different cultures have put her in a privileged position to understand and make sense of various ways of understanding reality and the misunderstandings surface between people from different backgrounds, which she has captured in her writing. She also highlights the value of reading outside one’s culture and exploring the parallels between the historical experiences of distinct regions, considering that the world is very much alike, and there is something to be learned from that.

Aminatta Forna is part of the second wave of African writers, who started writing in the 1980s, 1990s, and early 2000s to make sense of the dictatorships and dawn of independence across the African continent. Being part of that movement in history turned her into a politically engaged writer, whose writing engages with the real world, the medical world, the political world, the world of human experience.

Her books include The Window Seat: Notes from a Life in Motion, The Devil that Danced on the Water, Happiness, The Hired Man, The Memory of Love and Ancestor Stones. Her articles and essays have appeared in many publications including The Yale Review, Freeman’s, Granta, Literary Hub, The Nation, The New York Review of Books, Orion, The Guardian and The Observer. Her most recent updates can be found on her personal website.

Featured writing

Featured media appearances

Featured event appearances

Aminatta Forna & John Freeman in conversation

Aminatta Forna in Conversation with John Freeman

November 9th, 2021

On November 9th, 2021, the Lannan Center presented a reading and talk featuring author Aminatta Forna and editor John Freeman to discuss her recently launched book, The Window Seat.…

Sofi Oksanen

An Evening with Acclaimed Writer Sofi Oksanen

September 21st, 2021

Virtual reading and conversation with one of the most awarded literary authors in Scandinavia, Finnish-Estonian novelist and playwright , Sofi Oksanen. Moderated by Lannan Center Director, Aminatta Forna.…